SXSW 2021 Reviews: Jakob’s Wife, Language Lessons & More!
The 2021 virtual South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival is finally kicking off and ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to attend and catch some of the incredible films in its catalogue, including the Barbara Crampton-led chiller Jakob’s Wife, the powerful and hilarious dramedy Language Lessons and more! Be sure to follow along as we regularly update our roundup with new reviews throughout the week!
- Written and Directed by: Jess Brunetto
- Starring: Sarah Burns, Mary Holland, Jorma Taccone, Rob Huebel, Florence C.M. Klein
- Rating: 8/10
If the story of two estranged siblings coming together to help care for their gravely-ill mother sounds familiar, you wouldn’t be blamed for believing such as you’re right and Sisters doesn’t shy away from knowing its genre and tapping into tropes of it for good. Unlike plenty of feature-length efforts of a similar story, Jess Brunetto’s implementation of the topic into a short format prevents it from overstaying its welcome or creating a meandering plot around it, but rather allows viewers to meet the titular siblings, choose quickly whether they feel a desire to connect to either or both of them and just enjoy the character moments and humor that all feels authentic and grounded, thanks in part to the stellar turns from stars Sarah Burns and Mary Holland.
See You Then
- Directed by: Mari Walker; Co-Written by: Mari Walker & Kristen Uno
- Starring: Pooya Mohseni, Lynn Chen, Nican Robinson, Danny Jacobs
- Rating: 8.5/10
Aside from maybe Richard Linklater’s iconic Before trilogy, it’s rare that filmmakers explore the topic of a couple reuniting years after they originally split and have each gone on to live their own lives, but even moreso when one of the two have undergone a transition in the time since and Mari Walker and Kristen Uno’s See You Then does well to explore this in a unique manner, even if a bit too surface-level. With Kris having left Naomi suddenly and without a word during their time together in college as she struggled with the realization she needed to transition, it’s pretty surprising to see how much the two get along for the majority of the film and how rarely they sit in an awkward silence or stumble. But what really sets it apart is as the film goes on and it almost seems as though there will be a reconciling of sorts between them, Walker and Uno are not afraid to pull the rug out from under audiences’ feet and see Kris and Naomi forced to confront their problems and every insult hurled, every personality flaw noted, every tear and heartbroken sigh comes across so authentically thanks to the skillful writing and Pooya Mohseni and Lynn Chen’s incredible performances, all resulting in a thoughtful, moving and insightful tale.
Lily Topples the World
- Directed by: Jeremy Workman
- Featuring: Lily Hevesh
- Rating: 9/10
In exploring the world of viral stardom, so many films and documentaries tend to get swept up in the dangers and more toxic areas of that realm that when a film such as Jeremy Workman’s Lily Topples the World chooses to approach its subject with a kind-hearted and optimistic take, it’s a breath of fresh air. Lily Hevesh, the titular world toppler, is a very sweet and interesting subject and her domino art is nothing short of breathtaking, with her friends and family’s testimonies all offering a nice insight into the artist, thus allowing the viewers’ journey with her from her crossroads of choosing between remaining in college and pursuing her passion to be a compelling one. Though the documentary could’ve benefitted from diving a little deeper into Lily outside of the domino world, giving her a little more of a well-rounded profile, it still proves to be a thoroughly satisfying and charming watch.
Woodland Dark and Days Bewitched
- Directed by: Kier-La Janisse
- Rating: 6/10
The subgenere of folk horror is certainly a joy to behold and its history is a rich textbook with intriguing connections to the various social standings and while Kier-La Janisse’s Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched clearly did its research to explore this realm, it might have gone a tad too far. Running at over three hours long, the film certainly covers nearly every extent of the world of folk terror but the problem is it doesn’t move at a quick enough pacing and the expert testimonies frequently tend to circle back to the same points made earlier in the documentary, illuminating a need for trimming of some fat to shorten the length and make for a smoother and more quickly-compelling documentary. That being said, the film is still relatively interesting and the experts referencing titles even the biggest of cult fans might not have heard about proves to be an enjoyable enough exploration for hardcore genre fans.
Broadcast Signal Intrusion
- Directed by: Jacob Gentry; Written by: Tim Woodall and Phil Drinkwater
- Starring: Harry Shum Jr., Kelley Mack, Chris Sullivan
- Rating: 7/10
Aside from his filmmaker son, it feels as though the unique style and atmosphere of David Cronenberg’s cult classic filmography, namely his techo-surrealist Videodrome, has yet to truly be recreated by another filmmaker, though one of the few to come close not once but now twice is Jacob Gentry, one of the minds behind the woefully-underrated 2007 gem The Signal and now the eye in the director’s chair of Broadcast Signal Intrusion. Following video archivist James as he falls down a rabbit hole of obsession in an effort to solve the mystery behind a series of broadcast signal hacks and their potential connection to his partner’s disappearance, the film may initially start out on the path of a fairly traditional narrative formula, but as it progresses it takes a few interesting twists and turns that keep things more baffling and ambiguous. While this approach worked in Cronenberg’s favor on the 1983 pic, it proves to be a bit more of a hindrance for Intrusion, with the film’s sudden arrival of a conclusion at the end feeling more akin to The Ring or FeardotCom than something original or compelling. That being said, Gentry’s direction is sleek and superb, Harry Shum Jr. delivers an absolute powerhouse of a lead performance and the visuals and atmosphere are appropriately haunting, resulting in a fairly chilling return to the ominous tech-based horror of the past.